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Tete-a-tete: Promp and circumstance: Modern-day prom prep

Depending on the school, prom may not be until April, May or June, but the average high school student has been preparing for months, 17-year-old Younger Sister included. That may sound a bit superfluous, but prom truly does require more planning than it used to.

For girls, the most important thing is the dress. Thanks to online shopping, the options today are nearly limitless and you have to start looking pretty early in order to narrow it down. Unfortunately, having more options doesn’t necessarily mean having more good options, as Younger Sister can tell you.

All she wants for prom is a plain satin two-piece ensemble in a neutral color – no sequins, sparkles or other embellishments. She’s comfortable with a narrow gap between the skirt and the top but would prefer to avoid an entirely exposed midriff.

You would think Younger Sister is asking for the holy grail. She’s sifted through hundreds of options online, and everything she’s found in the two-piece style has been too glitzy, too colorful or the top is so cropped and the skirt is so short that it looks more like a figure skating costume than a prom dress.

I wish I had a time machine so Younger Sister could go shopping back in my prom era. Two-piece ensembles weren’t particularly popular, but unembellished satin dresses were all the rage and easy to find in the special occasion section of the department store of your choice.

A few girls may have gone to a bridal boutique or high-end shop in hopes of finding a standout dress, but most of us did our prom shopping at the mall. Having the same dress as another girl wasn’t a big deal as there were only so many variations on the A-line silhouette popular at the time (read: straps or no straps) and it only came in so many colors. I remember my prom being a sea of similar dresses in shades of pink, purple and blue along with black and white.

In fact, two girls showed up wearing the exact same dress: a bright blue beaded number that was so unique, each likely thought she’d be the only one wearing it. Rather than getting upset, they laughed about it and posed for pictures together. One of those pictures even ended up in the yearbook.

These days, having a unique prom dress is considered so important that girls set up special groups on Facebook where any girl attending prom at their school can post a picture of her dress. With duplication not only discouraged but preventable, shopping early is a must, and more and more girls are taking the online or (expensive) boutique routes to ensure they get the one-of-a-kind dress of their dreams.

For guys, the planning revolves around the all-important promposal. Instead of the tried-and-true “Will you go to the prom with me?” that’s stood them in good stead for so many years, guys are now expected to ask their prospective date to the prom in witty, clever and thoughtful ways that can require as much forethought and coordination as a marriage proposal.

Dad recently had the pleasure of witnessing a promposal while we were celebrating a few family birthdays at a fondue restaurant. He made a wrong turn on his way to the restroom and ended up in a part of the restaurant known as Lovers’ Lane because of its intimate atmosphere and out-of-the-way location. A waiter was preparing a pot of cheese fondue at the table of a teenage couple, and when the fondue was ready, the boy turned to the girl and said, “I know this is cheesy, but I’m very fondue of you. Will you go to prom with me?”

Of course, the girl said yes. How could you possibly refuse a guy who takes you out for cheese fondue and has an appreciation for puns?

Promposals certainly amount to a lot of pressure for the guys, especially since there’s no guarantee the girl will say yes. It is, however, far preferable to the confusion that can ensue when the guy doesn’t bother to ask the girl because he assumes she’s going with him regardless – like what happened with my grandfather and grandmother.

Since Grandpa was dating Grandma and had taken her to other dances, he figured he’d also be taking her to her junior prom (Grandpa was a year ahead of her in school) and he didn’t need to ask her – that is, until Grandma told him that another fellow had driven out to her house and asked her to be his date. She had told him she thought Grandpa was going to ask her but that he hadn’t yet, and if Grandpa didn’t ask her, she would accept his invitation.

Grandpa was baffled that she would even consider going to her junior prom with someone else – after all, she was his girlfriend – but Grandma replied that since Grandpa hadn’t asked her, she wasn’t sure if he wanted to take her. He made it clear that he absolutely wanted to take her, and she happily accepted. After that, Grandpa took special care to ask Grandma to every school dance.

Between crafting the perfect promposal and scouring the global marketplace for a dress you love and no one else has, prom requires more planning than it once did. The pressure for a perfect prom experience is real, but make sure that doesn’t keep you from enjoying the preparations or the event itself. Whether it’s a duplicate dress situation that makes the yearbook or your promposal is the wrong kind of cheesy, sometimes the best memories are made when things go awry.

– Teresa Santoski

Originally published March 2, 2017


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